In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Once again it's time to pause and reflect on the multitude of blessings that our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us, and on all the things we have to be thankful for. Among mine: a God who knows and loves me; a Savior willing to die for me; a country worth giving my life for; my sweet wife Melany and our beautiful children (and new grandson Liam!); my wonderful parents and the love and wise counsel they blessed me with growing up (and still do today); my awesome siblings and their delightful spouses and children; reasonably good health; a steady (if trying) job; a decent home; a nice community and good neighbors; and a beautiful area in which to live. Who could ask for more? I'm blessed so far beyond what I deserve that I want to fall on my knees in gratitude every time I think about it. It's hard not to believe in a loving, merciful God when one is blessed so much. I only pray that my faith will endure when and as I lose some of these things, as will probably happen--hopefully only a little at a time--in future years. But I'll NEVER forget how much I've been given, even if only for a while. Praise our God for it!

Another thing I'm thankful for is the joy of music. Few things moves me so, or make me so happy--especially sacred music. Another of my favorite hymns, and one widely heard and sung around Thanksgiving time, is For the Beauty of the Earth, written in 1864 by English hymnist and poet Folliott S. Pierpoint (1835-1917). It is related that Pierpoint was taking a walk one late spring day, in the lovely area surrounding his home in Bath, England. Overwhelmed with the beauty he saw, he sat down and wrote For the Beauty of the Earth. In this lovely hymn Pierpoint thanks God not only for His beautiful creation, but also for family, friends and other gifts God has bestowed upon us. The hymn was sung in the 1994 movie version of Little Women.

Here is a lovely video and choral rendition of this sweet hymn. The video scenes are of places and people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada; I love it because it celebrates not only the beauty of nature, but also "the joy of human love,/Brother, sister, parent, child"--my favorite lines from the hymn! The full text of the hymn, which includes several stanzas in addition to those sung in the video, is set forth below.

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.


Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.


For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.


For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.


For Thy Church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.


For the martyrs’ crown of light,
For Thy prophets’ eagle eye,
For Thy bold confessors’ might,
For the lips of infancy.


For Thy virgins’ robes of snow,
For Thy maiden mother mild,
For Thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled.

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

. . . On the Erie Canal

And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

from the song Low Bridge (1905)
by Thomas S. Allen

Well, I've never actually "navigated on" the Canal, unless being a canal boat passenger once or twice qualifies. But the Erie Canal--located, as the crow flies, only a couple of hundred yards from our house in Brockport, New York-- is an ever-present feature of our lives. My bus crosses and re-crosses it several times a day between home and work. My office window, in a 122-year-old building in downtown Rochester, looks out over an old aqueduct, on which a street now runs, that once carried the Canal across the Genesee River.

My office is on the second floor from the top of that red brick building at the left, about the fourth one in from the corner above the river.

Indeed, Brockport--the town we live in--is known as "The Victorian Village on the Erie Canal." It wouldn't be much of a place without the Canal.

Under construction from 1817 to 1825, the Erie Canal was the first transportation system between the eastern seaboard and the western interior (Great Lakes) of the United States that did not require portage. Cutting transport costs by about 95%, the Canal fostered a population surge in western New York, opened regions farther west to settlement, and helped New York City become the chief American port. It's no longer a commercial artery, but is still a recreational and historic treasure.

Currently, the Canal's chief role in our family's life is as the ultimate place to walk our big greyhound Frank--he loves all the trees, bushes and rocks lining the sides of the gravel path that runs alongside the waterway. For us, walking him there is a chance to get much-needed exercise, to chat and bond, and to enjoy a scenery that's both constant and ever-changing with the seasons--for example, the water freezes in winter, making a great surface on which ducks can land and "surf" to a stop on the ice, one of the funniest things you'll ever see! In the spring, the banks are crowded with brilliant wildflowers, and the chorus of frogs in the marshes along the path makes a compelling music. In the summer the path becomes a busy thoroughfare for joggers and bikers (the latter including me). And our fall season, my favorite, is just coming to a close. The air is clear and cool with that spicy/smoky aroma, and the trees and bushes are (or were, a couple of weeks ago) ablaze with red, orange, and gold leaves. I wanted to share with you some photos I took on several recent excursions along the Canal near our home.

The following two pictures were taken on a recent bike ride along the Canal heading west from near our house and toward the village of Holley. If I kept going this way, I'd eventually find myself in Buffalo!

The picture below was also taken heading west, but from the village of Brockport looking toward the SUNY Brockport campus and the vicinity of our home on the other side of that.

The next set of pictures, on the other hand, were taken just across the Canal from our house and headed east, toward the village of Brockport. This is the part of the Canal where we most often walk Frank. You can see him and Melany in the first picture below!

If you keep going east along the Canal from near our house, you approach the village of Brockport. Even here on the edge of "civilization," foliage beside the path can be almost as dense and colorful as you might find in a rain forest!

Nevertheless, if you look closely, you'll catch sight of a little house nestled amidst the boughs and fronds--almost looks as if a hobbit might emerge from it at any moment!

One of my favorite things about the fall in these parts are the little purple flowers--I don't even know what they are--that abound along our roads and pathways, including the Canal. They make such a contrast with the greens and golds about them!

Sadly, now that it's mid-November, our autumn brilliance is past. In about 10 days, the people who run the state canal system will draw down the water to almost a trickle, just enough to create an icy surface in December for the ducks to skate on. Fine entertainment as we walk Frank along the path in the bitter cold!

And I aint prevaricatin' 'bout the Erie Canal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Celebrating the Palin Effect

A good Facebook friend of mine, and an otherwise staunch conservative, complains: "Sarah Palin's endorsement of Christine O' Donnell cost the GOP that Senate seat and her endorsement of Sharron Angle didn't work out either. Harry Reid was very beatable. Sarah Palin needs to fade away. She's not needed any further." I heartily disagree, and for several reasons.

Mrs. Palin isn't some sort of witch who blows into town on a broomstick, casts a spell on local Republicans, and by her fiat alone causes them to vote for candidates who can't win a general election. Republicans in Delaware and Nevada used their own free judgment to nominate the people who really animated them and inspired in them more trust and confidence than the "establishment" candidates. Let those candidates, and the party leaders who back them, stop whining about Sarah Palin and do a better job of selling their brand to the rank and file. Are Republican voters somehow too gullible to be trusted with control of their own party? Is the party to be run exclusively by top-level operatives who choose its candidates in back rooms according to what they think would best advance the organization's interests (which might or might not coincide with the country's)? Obviously, frustration with the RINO "elite" played a big part in Delaware, Nevada, and many other primary races, and in the general election helped propel many true conservatives into national and state office. Palin-sparked Tea Party enthusiasm may have "cost" the Republican Party some seats here and there, but I wouldn't trade that dynamic force on a nationwide basis for anything right now. It's what is providing the energy, leadership, and vision pulling "independents" and heretofore apathetic or non-political people in the right direction.

In any case, as CBS News points out, "most of the candidates Sarah Palin endorsed chalked up victories Tuesday." She backed 43 candidates for the House of Representatives and at least 30 of them won, while she endorsed 12 Senate candidates and seven of them won. Among the winners Palin endorsed were Nikki Haley for governor of South Carolina, Pat Toomey for Senate in Pennsylvania, and John Boozman for the Senate, in Arkansas. "My observation of Sarah Palin," says CBS News political analyst Nicolle Wallace, "is that she is one of the shrewdest political figures in our country at this moment. She's also one of the most electric." Without question, Mrs. Palin carries the torch and brings home the bacon better than anyone else in the GOP or the conservative movement generally.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln's famous 1862 endorsement of the then-widely-criticized Ulysses S. Grant, "We can't spare this woman--she fights."